SEO and SEM: Differentiating the Two Internet Marketing Terms

Marketing has taken a different dimension – from the traditional techniques to the optimization techniques designed for online marketing. Businesses have been introduced to two marketing terms that are often confused and interchanged when it comes to what each term represents or connotes.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO and Search Engine Marketing or SEM are two different services despite some similarities in functionality. It is likely that many business owners are more familiar with SEM as it refers to the important strategies for Internet marketing. SEM includes tactics such as paid listings, search engine optimization and other search-engine related services.

SEO

One definition of SEO or search engine optimization is: the strategies and techniques are used to ensure that a website is accessed by search engine crawlers thereby increasing the chances of the website being found by the search engine. These are the strategies that affect the visibility of a website or a web page in the natural/organic or unpaid search results. Search engines like Google are driven by the desire to provide the users with the most relevant web pages pertinent to what they are looking for. The continuous update of the search engine algorithms are fueled by such desire of relevant content and information. SEO has on-page and off-page categories where specific elements are used in order to improve the page ranking with search engines.

SEM

Search engine marketing is a broader term used to include various options available to use a search engine’s technology that includes paid advertisements. It offers an opportunity to pay only for each click on the ads that leads to your website. Such advertisements will appear on the page of consumer’s specifically looking for your products, goods or services. This should result in a higher conversion rate. A popular example of an SEM strategy is PPC or pay-per-click advertisement.

The Difference Between SEO and SEM

While both terms target to achieve the same objective of getting more searchers to visit the website, they differ in the methodology they use to achieve those objectives. While SEO concentrates on organic search results, SEM uses the search engines to promote your website or business, making SEM an important follow through component of SEO.

SEM traffic is one of the most important sources of online traffic because it is specifically targeted. People use the Internet through the search engines to find solutions or information about a specific problem or need. As they are likely to see your website as part of their search results, when they click on an ad they are likely to convert. The relevancy of the displayed ads makes SEM traffic more valuable compared to others in terms of conversion.

Hence, it is probably safe to say that SEO and SEM are not competing terms. They complement each other. A website that has a solid SEO buildup and foundation has to rely on the targeted traffic that will come from paid advertising. On the other hand, no SEM campaign will ever roll if a website has no solid SEO platform for how else can the website with the paid ads be found if they are not search-engine optimized? SEO must be the first stage in promoting the site through organic optimization techniques and after the site has ranked well with search engines to ensure visitors find the site will SEM be implemented in order to achieve conversion.  SEO and SEM cannot be effective without each other.

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2 thoughts on “SEO and SEM: Differentiating the Two Internet Marketing Terms

  1. Its really worth to read the whole article, the way you differentiate between these two terms SEO and SEM is just awesome. Both these methods are very important and very helpful in generating genuine traffic. Well, I want to ask one thing which is confusing me that video marketing is part of SEO or SEM? And in your opinion how important is video marketing in internet marketing? Can you please write me back here?

  2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) are actually under Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – SEO is the collective term for both organic search campaign (which can be done through different SEO strategies) and paid search campaign (which can be done through PPC in Google Adwords or Bing/Yahoo Ads). SEO and SEM shouldn’t be compared at all, but rather SEO and PPC or Paid Search.

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